Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Just another television show

Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Reluctant to become a partisan in the "culture wars" being fought on
the nation’s talk shows and editorial pages? There really are only two
ways: Either get rid of the TV altogether or, equally unlikely in a nation of
self-dramatizing soreheads, tighten up that pouting lower lip and enjoy
the comedy. See, it’s all just another TV show, as stylized in its way
as professional wrestling, a melodrama enacted by opportunists of every
variety. And I’m not simply talking about ABC programmers who slipped
an R-rated promo for the prime-time soap opera "Desperate Housewives" in
among the gyrating cheerleaders and babe-o-rama beer commercials on NFL
Monday night football.

I mean the whole self-promoting cast: repentant network execs,
moralizing FCC regulators, solemn anchor-persons, fulminating TV
preachers and smartaleck newspaper columnists, too.

How could ABC be so foolish after CBS’ bad experience with Janet
Jackson’s infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during last year’s Super
Bowl? Well, duh. The "controversy" couldn’t have been more deliberately
contrived. How would a nation traumatized by a peek at a washed-up pop
star’s naughty bits react to a naked blonde jumping into a handsome,
black NFL star’s arms?

Why, exactly as producers hoped. The idea was to let the crucial Bud
Light demographic know that "Desperate Housewives" wasn’t merely a
weep-a-thon for women; it’s tasteless enough for both sexes. Already
the nation’s top-ranked program, "Desperate Housewives" promptly drew
several million titillated new viewers.

Now me, I’m so old that I can remember when the most strident protests
would have come from feminists denouncing the skit as a degrading
sexist fantasy. Persons of their gender simply don’t act as shamelessly as the
saucy minx played by actress Nicolette Sheridan. Alas, I’ve also been
on the road with professional athletes, and it saddens me to report that
some women do.

In the real NFL, stadium security would have to answer for letting a

groupie into the locker room. Or maybe the bimbo was supposed to be a
team owner’s trophy wife. As in porn films, characterization was
vestigial. Blonde, towel, locker room, wide receiver—in short, a
degrading sexist fantasy with racial overtones.

But this is 2004, so the task of helping promote ABC’s stunt fell
mainly to televangelists and public scolds on the Republican right. Former NFL
color man Rush Limbaugh pronounced himself shocked. "I mean, there are
some guys with their kids that sit down to watch ‘ Monday Night
Football, ’" the thrice-divorced, pill-popping moralist announced.

On "Meet the Press," Rev. Jerry Falwell’s wattles shook with
indignation over the offense to family values.

I’d be more impressed with the indignation of Limbaugh, Falwell and
pundits of their ilk but for their gleeful participation in the Clinton
Impeachment Follies when, thanks to them and the psalm-singing judicial
pornographer Kenneth Starr, the phrase "oral sex" was repeated on TV
roughly every 20 seconds for the edification of every child in America.
No recent event has done more to coarsen public discourse or contribute
to the inappropriate sexualization of children.

This is not to ignore Bill Clinton’s own extravagant folly, but it
wasn’t his idea to turn his intimate sins into a 24/7 TV melodrama. It
was his political enemies’, all of whom thought humiliating him and
promoting themselves more important than the public virtue they now so
piously declaim.

In connection with a documentary of Joe Conason’s and my book "The
Hunting of the President," I once asked Falwell, on camera, if the
biblical commandment against bearing false witness was a lesser sin
than the other nine. At issue was the televangelist’s promotion of "The
Clinton Chronicles," a video portraying the president of the United
States as a cocaine-snorting drug lord and worse. Falwell replied that
he had no idea if the allegations in the video were true or false, a
"Clintonian" evasion if ever one was.

And people call Michael Moore irresponsible!

Next time you ponder "liberal bias," ask yourself if a left-winger
connected with a project which intimated that President Bush had his
political rivals murdered would be a frequent guest on CNN and "Meet
the Press." But hey, sex sells, as everybody involved in this solemn farce
understands. It sells beer, it sells whatever products they’re pitching
on "Desperate Housewives" and it helps sell salvation, too. If not,
televangelists would rail against something else. Almost as interesting
as what excites would-be censors is what doesn’t: "The Young and the
Restless," " The Bold and the Beautiful" and other daytime soaps, whose
nubile characters devote their entire lives to seduction, betrayal and
hopping in and out of bed. But Momma don’t like nobody messing with her
stories, so nobody does. That said, for once Limbaugh’s right:
Half-naked cheerleaders and beer-ad cuties notwithstanding, a man and
his kid ought to be able to watch a ball game without both getting
embarrassed by a hoochie-coochie show.

• Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient
of the National Magazine Award.


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